I used to sort of do meal planning, think of a few meals, buy the ingredients, then forget what I wanted to make or which cookbook the recipe was in! Many of times I found myself standing in the kitchen looking in the refrigerator or pantry, wondering "what in the world do I want to make for dinner?! It is 5:30 and the family is hungry!"
I also used to grocery shop on Thursdays (when I was in graduate school it was the best day to do it) but I'm not in school anymore and it was kind of an awkward day as far as planning a menu for the week. I moved menu planning and grocery shopping to Mondays and it works great! I use my handy calendar to plan out meals for the week, search the pantry and refrigerator for what I already have, write a list and clip my coupons. It has saved me a lot of time AND stress!
My friend Heidi gave me the greatest idea. Each day of the week is a different type of food. For example, Mexican food is on Mondays, Asian food is on Tuesdays, Wednesday is Italian, Thursdays is crock-pot day (we don't get home from Grace's ballet until 6:30pm). I added the idea of Friday being "Kid Friendly" dinner night. So, every Friday night we eat what kids love to eat, build your own pizza, hot dog roll ups, grilled cheese etc. It gives me a break at the end of the week to make a simple meal and the kids get to have something they love, all week long they they have to eat "grown-up" food. Creating food categories is a great way to narrow down the long list of possibilities of what to make for dinner.
If you don't already plan your meals for the week, I highly recommend you start. It seriously has changed my life and lowered my stress level, at least in this area of keeping the home. Now if I can figure out the laundry!!